Sick as a Dog – When does a coughing dog need to see a veterinarian?

Crash Cough

Photo courtesy of Jorie Perlman

After the Chicago Canine Influenza scare in 2015, most owners are on high alert if their dog starts coughing. Because there are many different causes, here are some tips to help owners understand when they should be taking their dog in to see a veterinarian.

If your dog has a dry, hacking cough reminiscent of clearing a throat and is producing white phlegm, this commonly is an indication of kennel cough, also known as Infectious Tracheobronchitis (ITB). Kennel cough represents a group of respiratory viruses and bacteria commonly acquired in communal dog situations, such as daycare, boarding, grooming or dog parks. Some dogs may also have a fever or nasal discharge, but often no other sign besides the hacking cough are present. While many cases of kennel cough will resolve without treatment, it’s best to bring your dog in to see a veterinarian for an exam. Medications can be prescribed to help speed up the recovery time and minimize their sign. Annual or semiannual vaccination is available for dogs with frequent risk factors.  For more information on kennel cough, click here

The dry, hacking cough can also be an indicator of Canine Influenza. The other signs that usually accompany the persistent cough are: nasal discharge, fever (normal temperature is between 99 – 102.5 degrees), lethargy and lack of appetite. In severe cases, Canine Influenza can cause pneumonia. Usually dogs who have pneumonia have a wet-sounding cough – this can indicate accumulation of fluid and infection in their lungs. This is also a situation where an exam with a veterinarian would be strongly recommended;  in severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary.

Finally, in certain small breed dogs, such as Chihuahua, Pomeranian, Maltese, Shih Tzu and Yorkshire Terrier, a condition called collapsing trachea can cause them to cough. This cough sounds more like a honking goose and usually occurs when pressure is placed on their trachea or if the pet becomes excited or active. This is a hereditary condition that is caused by weakened or misshapen cartilage rings that make up the trachea. To confirm the diagnosis, you would need to bring your dog in for an exam and chest x-rays. Based on the findings, the doctor may prescribe medications such as cough suppressants or steroids to help treat this condition.

If you have any further questions or are concerned about your dog’s cough, please contact us at Blum Animal Hospital in Lakeview at: (773) 327-4446.

Written for Blum Animal Hospital by Jackie Sheppard.